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(2nd LD) Fugitive Sewol owner's aides nabbed in massive raid

All Headlines 16:19 June 11, 2014

(2nd LD) Sewol owner-religious retreat

Reward for Sewol owner

(2nd LD) Fugitive Sewol owner's aides nabbed in massive raid
(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with more throughout)

ANSEONG, South Korea, June 11 (Yonhap) -- Investigators arrested four members of a sect in a church retreat raid Wednesday on suspicion of helping the fugitive owner of the sunken ferry Sewol evade a massive manhunt.

Raid on Geumsuwon compound

A team of prosecutors and some 4,000 riot police, armed with court-issued warrants, stormed into the sprawling religious compound belonging to the Evangelical Baptist Church in Anseong, just south of Seoul.

Police said they have detained the four church followers, including a suspect surnamed Yim, on charges of assisting Yoo Byung-eun, who is believed to own Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the ferry Sewol that sank off the southwest coast on April 16.

The suspects are accused of providing shelter for the 73-year-old Yoo, who is wanted for a string of corruption charges and irregularities, or helping him flee during the raid on the huge retreat, nestled between mountains near Anseong.

Arrest of Yoo's follower

Investigators believe that corruption by Yoo resulted in lax safety practices, such as cargo overloading, and created conditions that ultimately led to the tragedy that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Authorities have been after Yoo for weeks and put up a 500 million won (US$489,000) bounty for him.

Another church member was also detained for allegedly trying to obstruct the raid, police said, adding that they are focusing on finding two other senior church followers who are believed to have played a major role in helping Yoo evade capture.

Raid on Geumsuwon compound

Nearly 100 church followers built a blockade in front of the compound but did not try to stop the police from entering the premises.

The followers have been staging a sit-in at the gate, arguing that the church has nothing to do with the allegations raised by the investigators.

The huge operation came a day after President Park Geun-Hye urged police and prosecutors to capture Yoo, saying that he "must be brought to justice."

On May 21, a team of prosecutors and police first entered the premises to arrest Yoo and his eldest son, Dae-kyun. After an intensive search that lasted for hours, the team failed to find the two.

As part of efforts to locate the whereabouts of the two, prosecutors have raised the rewards for information leading to the arrests of Yoo and Dae-kyu, to 500 million won and 100 million won, respectively.

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